Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Betty MacDonald, Monica Sone, Wolfgang Hampel

Betty MacDonald fan club fans, a new fascinating Betty MacDonald biography by Wolfgang Hampel, bestselling author of ' Satire ist mein Lieblingstier ' ( Satire is my favourite animal ) will be published in 2021. Wolfgang Hampel was a very good friend of author Monica Sone, dexcribed by Betty MacDonald as Kimi in The Plague and I: Monica Sone shared the most interesting info on her wonderful friend Betty MacDonald. Wolfgang Hampel and Betty MacDonald fan club are working on this golden treasure for many Betty MacDonald fans around the world. Have a nice Tuesday! Take care, Mats -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- http://bettymacdonaldfanclub.blogspot.com/2020/07/readers-praise-satire-ist-mein.html Why are funny books so important? Take me, I'm a very optimistic personality but in these days I need some kind of support. Therefore I'm very glad and grateful I can read a very intelligent and funny book. Satire ist mein Lieblingstier (Satire is my favourite animal) by Wolfgang Hampel is a perfect example of very funny and very intelligent literature. Yes, indeed it requires lateral thinking; making unexpected connections; being one step ahead of the reader. If you are looking for a very funny and very intelligent book try brilliant Satire ist mein Lieblingstier ( Satire is my favourite animal ) by Wolfgang Hampel. You'll enjoy it as much as I do and many, many delighted readers around the world. Take care, Martine Didier ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Betty MacDonald fan club fans, we wish you a very happy Tuesday with one of the funniest books ever written. Send us your thoughts regarding humour, please. We are going to include the best essays in our next Betty MacDonald fan club newsletters. You might be one of our Betty MacDonald fan club surprise winners. Good luck! Why do I think that Satire is my favourite animal by Wolfgang Hampel is such a popular book? I guess the reason why is it's so witty and intelligent. Yes, it's true. You can read Satire is my favourite animal over and over again the same way I do and it won't bore you. To me this happens very, very seldom. Very witty Satire ist mein Lieblingstier ( Satire is my favourite animal ) by Wolfgang Hampel the best recipe for bad mood and depression - especially important in times like we have now. Please don't miss Satire ist mein Lieblingstier by Heidelberg author Wolfgang Hampel ( Satire is my favourite animal ) one of the funniest books ever written according to many readers around the world. (UK, USA, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and many other countries) Very successful writers are going to introduce their fascinating books at Vita Magica January - June 2021. You are very welcome! Vita Magica setzt ihr Programm auch 2021 fort. Im ersten Halbjahr werden großartige neue Autoren ihre sehr erfolgreichen Bücher vorstellen. Vita Magica will continue with fascinating new authors and their very interesting books at Vita Magica January - June 2021. A fascinating new Vita Magica program. Wir brauchen jetzt sehr witzige und heitere Bücher!!! Golden laughter is very important - especially now!!!! Das wunderbare Buch ' Satire ist mein Lieblingstier ' ( Satire is my favourite animal ) von Wolfgang Hampel ist ein brilliantes Feuerwerk der besten Pointen mit sehr geistreicher, witziger und hintergründiger Unterhaltung!!!!! https://www.amazon.de/-/en/Wolfgang-Hampel/dp/3958281559 Wenn Sie ein sehr humorvolles Buch lesen wollen, dann verpassen Sie bitte nicht 'Satire ist mein Lieblingstier ' von Wolfgang Hampel. Das sehr witzige Buch 'Satire ist mein Lieblingstier' ( Satire is my favourite animal ) von Wolfgang Hampel lieben vieler Leser auf der ganzen Welt!!!!( USA, UK, Deutschland, Österreich, Schweiz und vielen anderen Ländern ) Wolfgang Hampel, author of very witty Satire ist mein Lieblingstier ( Satire is my favourite animal ) and Vita Magica Team support culturual institutions with special events and book sales of Satire ist mein Lieblingstier. This very witty book is according to many readers from all over the world one of the funniest books ever written. https://www.amazon.de/-/en/Wolfgang-Hampel/dp/3958281559 Satire ist mein Lieblingstier ( Satire is my favourite animal ) by Wolfgang Hampel is like golden sunshine in very grey November. Please don't miss very witty Satire ist mein Lieblingstier ( Satire is my favourite animal ). It's one of the funniest books ever written according to many readers around the world. It brings lots of fun and joy to many readers around the world. Many of them including me take this best medicine for bad mood every day. Betty MacDonald fan club - and Vita Magica founder, Wolfgang Hampel from Heidelberg, author of very witty Satire ist mein Lieblingstier ( Satire is my favourite animal ) is working on a new Betty MacDonald biography. 'Satire ist mein Lieblingstier ' by Wolfgang Hampel is very successful in USA, UK, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and many other countries!!!!!!!!!!!!! You can read Satire ist mein Lieblingstier ( Satire is my favourite animal ) by Wolfgang Hampel over and over again and it won't be boring. Don't miss it, please. Wolfgang Hampel, author of very witty Satire ist mein Lieblingstier ( Satire is my favourite animal ) and Vita Magica Team support culturual institutions with special events and book sales of Satire ist mein Lieblingstier. This very witty book is according to many readers from all over the world one of the funniest books ever written. https://www.amazon.com/Satire-ist-mein-Lieblingstier-Satirische/dp/3958281559 Happy Tuesday, Greta -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Issue 5 2002 Betty MacDonald is best known for her book The Egg and I (a bestseller when it was published in 1945, it was made into a movie starring Claudette Colbert and Fred MacMurry) and her children's books, the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle series. The Egg and I is the story of a city girl who, at the age of 18, marries a chicken farmer -- from "that delightful old school of husbands who lift up the mattresses to see if the little woman has dusted the springs" -- and settles down with him to raise children and poultry -- and conceives an almost pathological hatred of chickens. Published in 1945, The Egg and I is a classic of the wisecracking, disgruntled dame variety -- but it isn't hard to see that beneath that veneer, the book voiced real complaints about women's lot in marriage and a tough streak of anti-romantic realism. (It also contributed to the image of Seattle and its environs as a realm of backwoods eccentrics -- a far cry from the current stereotype of grunge rockers and latte-drinking drones for Microsoft.) The Plague and I (1948), MacDonald's subsequent -- and largely ignored -- autobiographical follow-up, concerns the year she spent in a tuberculosis sanitarium. In it, she brings the same grim humor to the story of her institutionalization and the dehumanizing treatment she experiences there. -- Anne Finger The Plague and I by Betty MacDonald On October thirtieth, a month and two days after I had entered The Pines, a nurse appeared in our doorway at the beginning of rest hours and ordered me to get ready for a ride in a wheelchair. I asked her where I was going but she said only, "Shhhhh!" and left. There was probably some excellent reason for it, but the practise of coming for patients in wheelchairs and not telling them where they were going, or what was to be done to them, always seemed cruel and senseless to me. A wheelchair brought to your bed could mean the dentist, surgery, light treatments, examinations, X-ray, fluoroscope, the movies, a lecture, dismissal, moving to another hospital, a death in the family, any number of things, generally unpleasant but never as unpleasant as the not knowing, the speeding down corridors with racing pulse and rocks in your stomach. I knew that a wheelchair during rest hours usually meant the treatment room. The treatment room for me! My hands quivered like springs as I tried to tie my robe. I sat weakly on the edge of the bed and phrases from the lesson on surgery swooped around my head in a horrifying circle like bats. "Phrenicectomy, thoracoplasty, bilateral pneumothorax, collapse of both lungs. My heart pounded and my hand grew wet and clammy as I waited. Kimi [MacDonald's roommate] tried to comfort me. Her cheeks scarlet with excitement and apprehension, she said, "At least you know that anaesthetics have been discovered and whatever they do to you will be painless." I said, "Yes, but just the fact that they are going to do something to me must mean that I'm not getting well. Remember the lesson: 'There are cases that do not improve with rest, fresh air, and good food.'" We could hear the creak of the approaching wheelchair. Kimi said, "Breathe deeply quickly with both lungs. It may be for the last time." The nurse came in, I fumbled my way into the wheelchair like a trembly old lady, we rolled down the hall past the Charge Nurse's office, through large, double swinging doors and into the treatment room, where I was delivered wheelchair and all to the treatment room nurse, a Miss Welsh. Miss Welsh looked cheerful and proved both understanding and kind for she told me at once that I was to have artificial pneumothorax. She said, "For heaven's sake stop looking so scared, there's nothing to it." The treatment room, a very large old-fashioned operating room, was divided into sections by white sheets hung on rods. Miss Welsh whispered that all new patients were started on pneumothorax by the Medical Director; that he was behind the curtains and was very irritable when operating. Indicating by rolled up eyes and a finger on her closed lips that I was to be absolutely quiet, or else, she disappeared behind the curtain. The treatment room had windows to the ceiling, pure white walls and strong overhead lights and I sat in my wheelchair, absolutely quiet but blinking and squinting in the strong light and feeling like a mole that had suddenly burrowed out into the sunshine. There were two other patients waiting. One was the blonde with the gold tooth, who had brought washwater on my first morning at the sanatorium. She wore the same maroon sweater and was tatting something shrimp pink. She smiled but said nothing. The other patient was a young man with thick straight dark hair, very sunken brown eyes and feverish red cheeks. His navy blue flannel robe had a blob of egg on the lapel and I could tell that he was a very new patient because his fingers were still brown with cigarette stains. He showed not a glimmer of interest in me, the blonde or his surroundings, but stared morbidly at a large black framed motto which read, "It's good to have money and the things money can buy -- but it's good, too, to check up once in a while and make sure that you have some of the things money can't buy." "Like tuberculosis," I thought bitterly. I was getting very sick of mottos and maxims and beautiful thoughts and as the minutes slogged by and there was no human sound from behind the white curtains, only occasional metallic clicks or the gushing sound of a faucet, I grew more and more apprehensive. "What were they doing behind there? Had something gone wrong? Why didn't somebody say something!" I moved my wheelchair back a little but this only brought me face to face with another motto, "Worry, the interest paid by those who borrow trouble." I felt just like Eileen [another patient] and wanted to shout rudely, "What knothead thought that up?" Just then the curtains parted and out came Little Miss Teacup Cavities of my first trip to the bathroom. She said goodbye to the Medical Director and Miss Welsh and was retrieved by a nurse from our ward who curtly took possession of my wheelchair. Miss Welsh indicated that the feverish boy was next and that I was to sit down on a bench beside Gold Tooth. I was so scared I was practically in a coma. Pneumothorax! Collapse of the lung! I was sure that I would suffocate. I remembered with disconcerting vividness the time, when I was twelve years old, I had tried to crawl between the crossed supports of a diving platform and had become firmly wedged. I drew air into my lungs in great gulps as I recalled the horrible smothering sensation and the long breathless terrible minutes it took Cleve to free me. I derived small comfort from the fact that everyone had told me that there was no sensation, no pain, to pneumothorax. Hadn't everyone told me that having a baby was just like a little case of indigestion? Indigestion maybe, but the kind you'd get from swallowing a cement mixer. I could now see the wall that had been behind me and it framed another motto. "Let thy speech be better than silence or be silent." Obviously somebody's mother had been scared by Bartlett's Quotations. I resolved to burn my copy the minute I got home. The thin blonde began to cough, first, however, neatly laying down her tatting shuttle and covering her mouth with a paper handkerchief. When she had finished she put the used handkerchief into an envelope of heavy waxed paper, put the envelope into her sweater pocket, then picked up her shuttle again. I could feel a cough bubbling in my chest. I swallowed hard and concentrated on "a cough can be controlled" for in my hysteria I had forgotten my waxed paper envelope and clean paper handkerchiefs. It was very warm in the treatment room and as I controlled my cough I could feel my face turning a dark unhealthy red. A nurse opened the outside door and looked in at us. Apparently neither the blonde nor I was what she wanted, for after looking at my red face suspiciously for a minute or two, she shut the door again. I grew fascinated with the blonde's tatting shuttle. It darted in and out of the shrimp pink like a dragonfly in a hollyhock. The pink thing was square and lacy and seemed to be some kind of a yoke. I had seen many such yokes displayed at county fairs and could easily picture it completed, its virulent color clutching the top of a too-short white cotton petticoat, cut on the bias and sucked in at the knees. Miss Welsh finally emerged again from behind the white curtains and motioned to me. My heart gave a wild leap of fear but I got up and marched resolutely over to her. Whatever it was, I was willing to face it, to get it over. She helped me off with my robe and the tops of my pajamas and up onto an operating table. She told me to lie on my back with my left arm above my head, then painted the entire upper left half of me with mercurochrome. The Medical Director was washing his hands over in the corner, his back to us. When he had finished washing the nurse handed him a pair of rubber gloves, which he put on without speaking. Then he poked me experimentally in the ribs, looked at my x-rays, examined my case history and said, "Yell if you want to but don't flinch!" I felt the prick of the hypodermic needle, just under my left breast, then an odd sensation as though he were trying to push me off the table, then a crunchy feeling and a stab of pain. "There now," the Medical Director said, as he attached the end of what looked like a steel knitting needle to a small rubber hose connected to two gallon fruit jars partially filled with a clear amber fluid. The nurse put one jar higher than the other and I waited frantically for my breathing to stop and suffocation to start. There was no sensation of any kind for a few minutes then I had a pulling, tight feeling up around my neck and shoulder. The doctor said, "I guess that's enough for today," took the needle out, slapped a bandage on me and I got down from the table, dizzy with relief. Climbing back into bed, I had a terrific, overwhelming desire for a cigarette. A cup of hot coffee and a cigarette. Laughing so that she would know it was just a little joke, I told the nurse but she looked disapproving and brought me two aspirin and some lukewarm water. By suppertime I had sharp knifelike pains in my chest and had spit up a little blood. I excitedly reported these symptoms to the Charge Nurse and she immediately put my bed down flat and said that 1 was not to walk to the bathroom and was to eat all my meals lying down for three days. She then explained calmly that the pains were adhesions tearing loose, the blood was probably from my nose, that I was most fortunate to be able to take pneumothorax. She said the only reason I hadn't had pneumothorax as soon as I entered was because of the shadow on my right lung. She said that this shadow had cleared and I was a very lucky young woman. Lying on my back, spilling tea and little slimy pieces of canned pear down my neck, it was difficult for me to see eye to eye with the Charge Nurse, especially as I had felt perfectly well without a single pain of any kind before I got so terribly lucky and was given pneumothorax. The maxim on my tray was: "I would rather be able to appreciate some things I cannot have than to have things I cannot appreciate." From then on until I left The Pines, like all the great clan of "gas" patients, I was given a jigger of "gas medicine," a brackish-tasting liquid, before every meal. For three days and nights, each time I moved I had severe tearing pains in my left lung. I took aspirin and tried to concentrate on feeling fortunate but succeeded only in feeling very tubercular. Friday morning, just after temperatures and pulses, a strange man stopped at our door, read my name from a list he was holding, told me to put on my robe and slippers, helped me into a wheelchair and started toward the elevators. "Now what?" I asked myself, my fear-addled brain trying to recall the various forms of surgery used if pneumothorax was not successful. When the elevator door had clanged shut, the man said, "Ever been to fluoroscope before?" I said no, and he said, "You'll like it. You can talk and you'll see people from all over the hospital." My sigh of relief almost collapsed my other lung. Before we had rounded the second bend of the tunnel leading to x-ray, we heard what sounded like the chirping and twittering of thousands of nesting birds. "Fluoroscope patients," the x-ray man explained. The noise was almost deafening as we rounded the last bend and came on about eighty patients, both men and women, but carefully sorted according to sex, sitting on benches along the walls of the tunnel and waiting to be fluoroscoped. The x-ray man pushed my wheelchair to the door of the laboratory and callously left me facing the benches and the eighty strangers, who immediately stopped talking and unabashedly looked me over. Feeling like a pimply blind date and very conscious of my gray lips and uncombed hair, I lowered my eyes and examined the fingernails on my shaking left hand. When the talking at last began again, I was sure much of it was about me but I was able to raise my eyes and observe. Most of the patients were young, in their teens and early twenties, and appeared robust and very healthy. The female patients from the Ambulant Hospital wore makeup and hair curled and arranged in slightly out-of-date fashions. The degree of out-of-dateness varied with the length of time the patient had been at The Pines and what had been in vogue when she entered. Most of the women were doing some form of fancywork and knitting needles, tatting shuttles, crochet hooks and embroidery needles flicked and darted as they talked. The men just sat. This made them appear sadder and sicker than the women. All the patients were dressed in bathrobes or housecoats. The women's were floor length and bright colored. Coral, turquoise, pale green, bright red, electric blue, lavender, yellow, and of course magenta. The men's robes were short and drab. Dusty dark blue, maroon, earthy brown and gray. The men were combed and clean shaven and actually as fat, pink cheeked and bright eyed as the women, but they didn't make the same effort to look healthy and happy. They sat in dejected attitudes looking as unemployed and beaten as possible, and coughing and spitting constantly. It made me wonder if any occupational therapy other than spitting was provided for male bedrest patients. From past experience with sick males, I knew that no form of occupational therapy, including how to make your own diamonds, would get a very enthusiastic reception, as a man's natural reaction to illness of any kind seems to be to see how big a stinker he can be and how much resistance he can muster against all forms of treatment. However, even the novelty of being a stinker must wear off after the first year, and it seemed to me that there should be something for those large idle hands to do. Something to bring a smile to those sad dejected faces, to lessen the tedium of tuberculosis. I was wondering what that something could be, when the door of the x-ray lab opened and Miss Welsh winked at me, jerked my wheelchair into pitch darkness, took off my robe and the tops to my pajamas and put a sheet around my shoulders. When my eyes had become accustomed to the dark, I saw that there were several doctors sitting facing the fluoroscope with their backs to me. A door to the right of the fluoroscope opened and a girl came in, closing the door quickly behind her. She sat down in front of the fluoroscope, slipping the sheet from her shoulders as she did so. There was a buzzing noise and I could see her ribs and lungs. They looked just fine to me but the technician ran his finger over the plate on her right lung and the doctors grunted unintelligible things to each other. They told her to raise and lower her arm. When she left it was my turn. The technician asked me my name, the House Doctor found my card, the technician ran his finger over the plate on my left side, I was told to raise and lower my arm, the doctors grunted unintelligible things to each other and it was over. Miss Welsh pushed me out into the hall again and over to the bench on the women's side, where they crowded over to make room for me. The woman next to me was embroidering "When you come to the end of a perfect day" in bright orange yarn on a maroon velvet pillow. just behind the word "come" she had already embroidered half of a large orange with spikes protruding from it. This puzzled me a good deal until she turned the pillow around and I realized that the prickly half-orange represented a sun setting behind a maroon horizon. The Perfect Day woman was talking to a girl, who had a big heap of loose curls on top of her head and winked every time she spoke. She was crocheting something in ecru string. Perfect Day said, "I was talking to Bill, Thursday, and he said that the Charge Nurse wouldn't send Mervin to the dentist because he was going to die anyhow and the Institution don't want to waste their materials fixin' his teeth." Heap O'Curls winked and said, "And I've heard that the poor kids in the four-bed ward up in Bedrest are starving and the Charge Nurse just laughs when they ask for seconds." Perfect Day said, "It's a wonder to me that anybody gets out of here alive." The girl on my other side was making a rag doll. It was supposed to be one of those long-legged French bed dolls but there had evidently been no pattern for the girl had made the body as long and thin as the legs and arms. The result looked like a squid. A tough delinquent squid with its face all pulled down on one side and bright orange hair exploding from its peaked head. The girl was attaching an arm and as she sewed she told her neighbor on the other side about a hemorrhage she had had at dinner before coming to The Pines. "A cup full of blood!" she finished triumphantly and I wondered where and how she had measured it. All the conversations were about operations, hemorrhages, ambulant patients who were to be sent back to Bedrest and bedrest patients who were to come to the Ambulant Hospital. I said to Perfect Day, "My, everyone certainly looks healthy!" She said, squinting as she threaded more orange yarn into her needle, "Don't let it fool you, honey, those red cheeks are t.b. flushes and only show germ activity." Rag Doll leaned across me and said, "Hazel, I had a chest exam yesterday and if it's o.k. I'll get six hours and my clothes. Mama said she'd buy me a whole new outfit." Perfect Day said, "God, honey, I'm prayin' for you but I wouldn't count on it. Henry Welter had a chest exam last week and they sent him back to Bedrest this morning." The Rag Doll girl said, "Really! Oh, the poor kid!" They both sewed in silence for a minute or two in honor of poor Henry's memory. A very attractive blue-eyed, dark-haired girl motioned to me. As she was sitting about ten people down the bench from me, in order to talk to her I had to lean forward. This almost got me Perfect Day's needle in my eyeball, so the dark girl moved up next to me. She said, "My name's Sheila Flannigan and my brother Red went to college with your sister Mary." I said, "Why I remember Red, but how did you know I was out here?" She said, "Molly Hastings told me." Sheila also told me that she had been at The Pines three months, had time up and was at the opposite end of Bedrest in a room with a former schoolmate of my sister Alison. I began to think that my sister Mary was right and that "practically everybody has tuberculosis." Catching my eye over the Perfect Day pillow, Sheila said, "That, my dear, is occupational therapy. 'There's a little bit of the artist in each of us,' " she said, quoting someone in a high squeaky voice. Looking at the maroon pillow I thought, "But what a tiny little speck in some people," and then the x-ray man came for me with the wheelchair. As I climbed into bed, I realized with surprise that the unaccustomed noise and confusion had been tiring and it was nice to return to the peace of our cold little cubicle. Kimi wanted to hear about everything and during the turmoil of returning patients to their beds, I managed to tell her most of what had happened. When I finished she said plaintively, "You know, Betty, it seems to me that the institution is making a greater effort to save you than to save me." I laughed, which immediately drew a disapproving nurse to the doorway, for fluoroscope was over and the ward was again so quiet that a whisper sounded like a steam jet in full release. On November twelfth, Kimi and I had a long bitter letter from Eileen. She had been moved into a room by herself. She said that she had thought that rooming with Minna was as low as you could get. Her exact words were, "Jesus, honey, it was, like livin' under a stone with a grub but now I'm still under the stone but all alone." She said that the reason for the move was: "Gramma brought old Mrs. Walladay out with her last Sunday and Mrs. Walladay yelled so loud the nurses told her three times to be quiet and finally the Old Dame came down, and raised hell and Gramma said, 'Ain't you ashamed, a big strong woman like you makin' fun of a poor old deaf lady!' Jesus, kids, I almost choked." So apparently had the Charge Nurse for she moved Eileen by herself. I felt very sorry for Eileen but didn't realize the extent of my sympathy until I was moved by myself on November fifteenth. It all happened so quickly I didn't even have a chance to say good-bye to Kimi. I opened my eyes after rest hours and the next I knew I was in a cubicle- by myself at the opposite end of the building. A few minutes later Kimi was wheeled past my door and a pathetic note from her that night informed me that she had been put in a room with the Japanese girl with no character. She said, "If not speaking will heal my lung I should be out of here within the week." The note ended, "Why did the Charge Nurse separate us? How could she perform such an act of cruelty?" That's what I wanted to know so I asked her. She said, "It is better for the patients to move every so often. To adjust to different personalities. It is better for you to be by yourself." I loathed being by myself. It was dull and depressing and I found it impossible to adjust to my own personality. My new little room was very comfortable with a window opening on a huge porch beside the bed, a radiator within easy reach, so that I could thaw out my feet occasionally in the early morning, and a delightful view of the Children's Hospital, the waters of the Sound and many trees. It was the first time since entering the hospital that I had been able to look out of a window and I found watching the writhing trees, the angry gray water and the driving rain very exhilarating for a day or two. Then I began to miss Kimi. I missed her gentle voice, her understanding and her acid tongue. Being alone made the whole day seem like the rest hours and I soon lost my feeling of high spirits and exuberant. good health, and spent much of my time longing for the children and thinking about death. There were six or seven beds on the porch and the patients in these beds were very quiet, almost immobile. It was undoubtedly because of the cold that they lay so very still under covers pulled high and tucked in, only their faces showing above the white spreads but to my morbid eye they seemed very sick, probably dying. At night when I lay wide awake, cold, lonely and sad, the beds looked like rows of white biers, and the patients' faces gleamed greenish white and dead in the pale reflected lights from the Administration Building. Before coming to The Pines, death, if I thought of it at all, which was seldom, was something swift, awe inspiring, cataclysmic, dramatic and grand. Death was a lightning bolt, a flood, a fire, a hurricane, a train wreck, an airplane crash, a pistol shot, a leap from a high bridge. When I had told this to Kimi one evening she had said, "Oh, that is not at all my idea of Death. To me Death is a lecherous, sly, deranged old man. His beard is sparse and stained. His eye are coarse lidded, red rimmed, furtive and evil. His loose red lip are slimy and drooling. He pants with anticipation. His partially opened mouth shows brown shaggy thread of tooth. He shuffles up and down the corridor at night, his malodorous, black robe dragging behind him." I was horrified and told Kimi that she was morbid. She had said, "I cannot help it. Each time Margaretta or any other very sick patient passes our door I fancy I see Death's evil face peering around the corner. I think I see his black robe swirl through the doorway ahead of the wheelchair. I can see him hovering like a great bat over the emergency ward, the light room, the private room. I can hear him shuffling up and down the corridor at night." (He must have done his shuffling in the very early evening for Kimi closed her eyes on the stroke of nine-thirty and did not open them again until the washwater was delivered.) Now that I was alone and had long sleepless hours to think, to listen and to observe, I thought Kimi's idea of death much more realistic than mine and I too began to see his evil peering face, to hear him shuffling up and down the corridors in the night. I'd awaken when the night nurse made rounds at about one or half past, and when the friendly yellow eye of her flashlight had darted off the ceiling and the soft pad of her retreating footsteps had been absorbed by the dark, I'd lie waiting. Stiff with dread. Then it would start. From far down the hall a cough -- dry and rattling like seed pods in the wind. Then another nearer -- gurgling and strangling and leaving the cougher gasping for breath. Then from across the hall a harsh deep cough with a strange metallic ring. Then the girl in the private room, the girl with skin the color of old snow, the girl with arms and legs like knobby sticks, whose voice was gone, would begin to gasp dreadfully. Involuntarily I'd try to help her until my tongue felt swollen, my throat ached, my lungs seemed crushed. "Hurry, hurry," I wanted to scream, because over it all I could hear the slow, sure shuffle of Death. Up and down the halls he went, never hurrying, knowing that we'd wait for him. One morning the Charge Nurse said, "The night nurse reports that you do not sleep well, Mrs. Bard. Is something troubling you?" I said no, not any one thing. She said, "What kind of thoughts do you have before going to sleep?" I said with mistaken honesty, "I long for my children and I think about death." She said with horror, "Death! Why Mrs. Bard, how awful!" Then quickly recovering and jerking herself down so that not a speck of revealing human being showed, she said, "We do not allow patients of The Pines to think about death, or other unpleasant things. You must have pleasant cheerful thoughts." I said, "But I can't have cheerful thoughts when I'm by myself. I hate to be alone." She said, "It is better for you to be alone. You must have cheerful thoughts or I will report you to the Medical Director." I wrote to Kimi that night and told her that the institution was now controlling my thoughts. She replied, "If only they could. I look at my roommate and think of murder twenty-four hour a day." From then on, while by myself, I spent the days trying to line up cheerful thoughts to mull over during the night. As I lay quietly assembling cheer, the two women in the next cubicle compared ailments. One of them had a liver that was crowding her tonsils; the other a uterus hanging by a thread. One had an ingrown toenail; the other a loose crown on her tooth. One of them belched and the other had pains because she didn't. One's sinus was so clogged she could not get any breath, the other had an empty tunnel from one ear to the other through which cold air whooshed, giving her earaches and other discomforts. One had fluid on her lung which had to be aspirated, the other was taking pneumothorax. They were each sure they were being given the wrong treatment and the wrong medicines. One of the women had a sweet motherly voice and talked about her organs as though they were little friends. "Old Mr. Gall Bladder acting up this morning" she would say right after breakfast, or "All my little intestines are crowded today, I don't think they liked the salad we had last night." I could picture Old Mr. Gall Bladder pounding on her liver with his cane and all her little intestines with bibs on crowded around the table not liking the salad. The other woman's insides were all little machines that didn't function. She was sure that if the Charge Nurse would only give her something to stir up her bile, the bile would start the wheels in her liver, the wheels in her liver would start the pistons in her stomach, the pistons in her stomach would generate enough juice to run her intestines, which would in gratitude wind around her uterus and keep it from dropping on the floor. The thing that amazed me was how either of the women had ever gotten tuberculosis, because according to their conversation, for years and years before coming to The Pines, they had spent every day but Sunday in various doctors' offices and had grown so familiar with all germs that they should have recognized the tubercle bacilli and swatted them like gnats. I was surprised the first time I saw Friendly Organs' visitors. I had thought of course that like her they would be dreary operation talkers and symptom discussers. But they weren't. They were hard bright women with lustreless dyed black hair, black sealskin coats, bright pink rouge, felt hats with vizors like policemen's hats, and big patent-leather purses. Their talk, loud and cheerful and punctuated with claps of laughter, was entirely about poker parties, drinking beer and people named Chet, Murphy and Vera. When they left, the air around Friendly Organs swirled with the musky scent of tuberoses and gardenias and the air around me swirled with pictures of the visitors at home in their one-room downtown apartments, drinking beer, opening cans of beans and being pinched on the behind by Chet or Murphy. On the days when the poker players didn't visit Friendly Organs, a small man dressed in black came and stood stiffly, like an exclamation point, at the foot of her bed for the two hours. I guessed that he was her husband but could not picture him fitting in with Chet, Vera and Murphy. The woman with the Little Machine intestines had a husband and son who came every visiting day. They were as pale as oysters, dressed alike in brown belted overcoats, tan fedora hats, and yellow pigskin gloves, and looked like burglars. I was amazed therefore, on a day when my visitors were late and there was a sudden little block of quiet, to hear the older burglar say in a gentle, tender voice, "What did you have for dinner today, Sarah, honey?" Sarah said, "They had cabbage again and I'm all bloated up." Son said, "Gosh, Ma, you know you can't eat cabbage. It always talks back to you." The older burglar said, "Have they done any thing for your sinus, honey?" Honey lowered her chin on her chest, belched, patted her stomach, looked at her husband accusingly and said, "See! Cabbage! It's just poison to me." Every morning the Friendly Organs woman would tell the Charge Nurse that she needed a "good cleaning out," or something for her ingrown toenail. The Little Machine woman would ask for something to stimulate her "nasal drip." When the Charge Nurse came to me she dared me to complain about anything and I didn't dare. I was cold and lonely and hated tuberculosis but I had cheerful thoughts, By God. "And how are you this evening?" the Charge Nurse would ask, her eyes steely and forbidding. "Just splendid," I'd answer dutifully reciting my catechism. "Simply splendid." © Copyright 2001 by The Advocado Press This Website produced by Cliffwood Organic Works